Emily Dawes, blithering idiot.
Our thanks to O for this, a piece by Helena Horton in The Telegraph today:
A Student Union President has caused outrage after she vowed to remove a mural commemorating students who died in World War One because it contains only white men.
Emily Dawes, who leads the University of Southampton Student Union was widely condemned after tweeting: “Mark my words – we’re taking down the mural of white men in the uni Senate room, even if I have to paint over it myself.”
The Rothenstein memorial, to which she refers, depicts an unnamed student receiving a degree from the Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, representing all the young men who lost their lives in the war and were unable to complete or collect their degrees.
It was painted in 1916 by Sir William Rothenstein, former Principal of the Royal College of Art, and presented to the University of Southampton in 1959, by the artist’s son, Sir John Rothenstein.
It features many key academics from the era of the Great War, including vice-chancellors and chancellors, and the then poet laureate Robert Bridges, and other panels of the mural feature young war poets who lost their lives in battle.
It is unclear whether she was aware of the significance of the memorial, although she had tweeted linking it to Armistice Day.
She wrote: “ONE OF THE WOMEN JUST SAID ‘it’s nearly armistice day so are we covering up this tapestry??’ AND HOLY S—. F— YES. GRL PWR.”
The privately educated physics graduate has been labelled “the epitome of stupid” by angered commentators as the university condemned her statements.
Ms Dawes attended the £5,000-a-term Northwood College for Girls, according to her LinkedIn page, and has said her favourite thing about Southampton is the “pretty dope” vegan food.
Southampton Itchen MP Royston Smith, who served in the RAF for 10 years, said her comments were “disappointing.”
He told the Daily Mail: “With freedom comes responsibility, and considering the President of the SU holds a position of authority she has clearly overstepped the mark.
“I hope she will reflect on what she has said and realise it has been conducted in poor taste. Those who know the history of our island are fully aware and appreciate the involvement of black and Asian soldiers against tyranny.”
Conor Burns, MP for Bournemouth West, added: “Pathetic. She would be better going to the Hartley Library and reading some history. She could read of the sacrifice that allows such fatuous virtue signalling today.”
The Southampton University Conservative Association labelled her comments “unacceptable,” tweeting: “Our union president promising to vandalise a memorial to those who served in the Great War, near the centenary of the end of the Great War. This is unacceptable.”
A spokesman for the University of Southampton said: “The comments made by the students’ union president regarding the Rothenstein Mural are not shared by the University of Southampton and do not represent the views of the university community.
“We are very proud to display the mural, painted in 1916, which serves as a memorial to all members of British universities who served in the Great War (World War I).”
A spokesman for The Royal British Legion said: “We believe the unique contribution of our Armed Forces should be remembered today, tomorrow and forever, however we respect the right of others to express their opinions within the law. Our Armed Forces community, past and present, have made sacrifices in defence of the freedoms we have today, including the freedom of speech.”
Ms Dawes has since apologised, and said in a statement: “Firstly, and most importantly, I would like to apologise for the offense and upset I have caused with what I have said.“I never meant the disrespect to anyone past, present and future. I had no intention of the tweet being taken literally, and upon reflection have realised how inappropriate it was.
“My intention was to promote strong, female leadership and not the eradication and disrespect of history. I do not believe that to make progress in future, we should look to erase the past.”
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